Since all your James Bonds and Jason Bournes have deprecated the spy genre into super-serious, po-faced undercover killing affairs, and the likes of Johnny English, Alex Rider, Cody Banks and those goddamned Spy Kids have infantilised the format into parodic oblivion, Matthew Vaughn (a Brit director with predilection for preposterous yet giddily entertaining cinematic ultraviolence) not so much lends some lost mojo as punches the living daylights back to the spy caper and makes us all realise, after 129 minutes of whirligig romp, that we’ve been missing one thing in espionage cinema – fun. Sure, there are plenty of head-smacking juvenilia on display here (crass lad’s humour galore) and the more you deconstruct Kingsman: The Secret Service, the more utterly ludicrous the plot becomes (featuring a sartorial elite underground intelligence organisation that’s apolitical, non-monarchical and simply anti-evil, yeah right) – but it’s a movie that’s maximally aware of its mechanics, managing to be riotously funny, filthy, gleefully nihilistic and gloriously profane to the point of unapologetic, Tarantino-esque excess.[divider]+[/divider]
Kingsman is a maelstrom of glee that looks like a sacrilege to the genre and feels all so wrong for all the right, joyous reasons.[divider]+[/divider]
Vaughn, for his stylistic dynamism, takes all spy movie tropes we know of – from cool gadgets to intelligence protocols, from far-fetched high jinks down to the megalomaniacal villain – and let it all spin around his middle finger, as we watch in amusement and even awe. Little genre convention is left unprompted, and despite the film’s first 30 minutes stumbles into derivative and formulaic territory, Kingsman takes the Pygmalion concept further (My Fair Lady is jocundly referenced, natch), playing the toffs-versus-yobs scheme for laffs and unpacks its myriad insane delights, one set-piece after the next. There are bumps to go through – the protégé auditions of the next knight on the spy table plays like a half-baked X-Factor show interbred with Hunger Games – but once that’s out of the way, once the impeccably besuited and tailoured Colin Firth starts beating the living shit out of an entire congregation of evangelists in a church to the tune of Lynard Skynard’s guitar-riffing Freebird, it’s made obvious that Vaughn intends to infuriate the hell out of America’s religious half. To say “subversive entertainment” is perhaps an understatement.
And the hilarity doesn’t end there. Kingsman amps up the derangement levels, hurtling towards its absurd, wildly cartoonish climax, ramping up a global annihilation plot cooked up by Samuel L. Jackson’s frankly comical, McDonald’s-loving, haemaphobic Silicon Valley oligarch (having a whale of a time with a lisping shtick). Our hero Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton bringing slick and smarm in equal measure) is up against a formidable foe, including a razor-legged hellcat, and a time-ticking apocalyptic conspiracy that wouldn’t be out of place in the most madcap spy conflicts. For all its idiocrasies, this climax is worth the ticket price alone, ramping up an insane concerto of bloodbath, shoot-’em-up spectacle and an extravaganza of unhinged nihilism that’ll make you squirm while grinning like an idiot. Kingsman is a maelstrom of glee that looks like a sacrilege to the genre and feels all so wrong for all the right, joyous reasons.